Monday, May 31, 2010

Tempest Rising by: Nicole Peeler


Living in small town Rockabill, Maine, Jane True always knew she didn't quite fit in with so-called normal society. During her nightly, clandestine swim in the freezing winter ocean, a grisly find leads Jane to startling revelations about her heritage: she is only half-human.

Now, Jane must enter a world filled with supernatural creatures alternatively terrifying, beautiful, and deadly- all of which perfectly describe her new "friend," Ryu, a gorgeous and powerful vampire.
 It is a world where nothing can be taken for granted: a dog can heal with a lick; spirits bag your groceries; and whatever you do, never-ever-rub the genie's lamp.

The first thing that drew me into this novel was the cover. I thought it was really original and pretty cool looking (I admit to being one of those who do judge a book by its cover). And I'm glad I gave it a shot. For a debut novel, Tempest Rising was really entertaining, and had some really strong characters.

Jane True is a pretty solid main character. She has flaws and she's indepentdent but vulnerable at the same time. She's relatable, and had a great voice. I especially loved the parts when she argued with herself. It's something I'm guilty of doing at times, and it made me laugh. She was sarcastic and witty, and all around the type of girl that I would probably want to be friends with.

Her relationship with Ryu, like in most paranormal novels, gets heated up pretty quickly. They do have good chemistry together, but I wish we could've had a bit more time to get some more tension in and then have them finally do the deed. But that might just be me. And I wish we'd gotten to know more about Ryu's background. I was surprised that Jane never asked him about his life. What he's seen and done. If I learned that the guy I liked was 270 years old, I was certainly ask him a few questions. I think without that bit of a background, Ryu isn't going to be as developed as he could be.

A side character that I absolutely loved was Anyan. Even though he only had a few moments in the novel, he was great. I can't wait to get to know more about him. I think he's going to be a really strong character.

The plot was decent enough and it stayed constant throughout the novel. And the amount of supernaturals she put in this was good. It wasn't just vampires and other "normal" supernaturals one sees these days. There was incubi, succubae, elves (though they're called Alfar), dryads, genies, selkies; a whole slew of supernaturals. I liked that. It showed a lot of variety from what we've been seeing lately. And I like that she lives in a small town.

One thing I really liked was the allusions that Peeler made. From Dostoevsky to Edith Wharton to Angela Lansbury playing Mrs. Fletcher in Murder She Wrote (that allusion particularly made me laugh, because right before I read it, I had been thinking about how the novel paralled some aspects of the show). Those were great.

So, all in all, I liked the first book enough to want to pick up the second. It was a fast read, entertaining, and  had great characters. So I'll definitely be picking up Tracking The Tempest.

Overall Rating: 8/10

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Edge Of Love

Director: John Maybury
Starring: Kiera Knightley, Sienna Miller, Cillian Murphy, Matthew Rhys

I'm a sucker for movies set during WWII. So, due to that and the fact that the movie starred both Keira Knightley and Cillian Murphy (two of my favorite actors), I knew I had to see it. And I wasn't disappointed.

To start off, I loved the scenary in this novel. From a war-torn London to the beautiful Wales countryside, the setting was perfect. Really helped set the tone for the movie.

I also liked that the characters were horribly flawed. It made them more realistic. (Cillian Murphy wasn't that flawed, he just had a little PTSD at the end). The actors all did a great job. I don't know if the Director wanted us to hate Dylan Thomas, but I did. The actor played a great asshole. He was so selfish. I don't really understand why both Caitlin and Vera put up with it. He definitely wasn't worth it.

I liked seeing the friendship between Vera and Caitlin grow. They had some great moments together, and the ending between them was really well done. I liked it.

I was surprised to find that Kiera can actually sing. Sure, she's not fabulous, but she was good enough to play the part well. And Cillian looked amazing in uniform. I wish he had gotten a little more screen time, because I liked his character. Out of all of them, I felt the most for him.

There were some parts in the movie that dragged a bit, but all in all it was a decent film. I enjoyed it enough. I would watch it again.

Overall rating: 7/10

Agnes Grey by: Anne Brontë


Written when women—and workers generally—had few rights in England, Agnes Grey exposes the brutal inequities of the rigid class system in mid-nineteenth century Britain. Agnes comes from a respectable middle-class family, but their financial reverses have forced her to seek work as a governess. Pampered and protected at home, she is unprepared for the harsh reality of a governess’s life. At the Bloomfields and later the Murrays, she suffers under the snobbery and sadism of the selfish, self-indulgent upper-class adults and the shrieking insolence of their spoiled children. Worse, the unique social and economic position of a governess—“beneath” her employers but “above” their servants—condemns her to a life of loneliness.

This is the first novel I've read by Anne Brontë, and I think there's only one other novel of hers that's been published. I was excited to see what the differences between her and her sisters were in their styles of writing. There are some distinct differences, but they all have sort of the same voice at times. Agnes, in my opinion, was pretty reminiscent to Jane in Jane Eyre when she was talking directly to the reader, and when she was describing how she felt for Mr. Weston (although she was much more conserved than Jane was). I thought it was funny how Weston's first name was Edward and Rochester's first name was Edward. I know it was a common name at the time, but the fact that it was used in both Agnes Grey and Jane Eyre for love interest of the main character was funny to me. Agnes Grey didn't parallel Jane Eyre, though. It was a much different novel. Agnes had a pretty rough time with the kids she taught and watched. They were spoiled little brats! I felt very bad for her. Whereas Jane got along really well with her pupil.

I think Agnes was a pretty strong character. Even though she could've ran home at any time and admitted defeat, she didn't. She stuck it out for her family through all the difficulties (and there were many). I do think this novel was probably a bit more realistic on the aspect of being a governess than Jane Eyre might have been.

I do wish, however, that there had been more scenes between Agnes and Mr. Weston. I wanted to see more interaction between them. Just to make the romance a little more believeable. I don't think we were given enough of a reason to believe they could love each other.

But I did like the end and how they met on the beach. That was pretty cute. Weston was pretty witty, which is why I would've liked some more scenes with him!

One thing Anne Brontë did well was create utterly unlikeable children. I wanted to throw them. Repeatedly. And the parents she created for these children were great. Definitely very realistic.

All in all, it was a good novel. Good enough to make me want to read her other novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. The novel isn't quite up there with Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, but it was worth reading. I'd recommend it to people who like the other Brontës, and to people who like novels that reflect the time period.

Overall rating: 7/10

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Catching Fire by: Suzanne Collins


Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

As most are aware, I loved the first novel,  The Hunger Games, so I was very excited to finally get around to reading the sequel, Catching Fire. It definitely didn't disappoint! It was so entertaining, that I finished it in one day! I literally could not put it down.

Katniss was, once again, a strong main character. I liked getting to see the changes in her life after the Games, and getting to see more of the townspeople.

There was a lot of tension in this novel, especially in the beginning with President Snow. It worked well, at some points I was holding my breath, unsure of what was going to happen.

I was glad to see more of the secondary characters that were great in the first novel: Peeta (of course), Haymitch, Cinna (I still adore him, probably more than I did in the first. He's amazing), Effie, etc. And the addition of new characters, like Finnick, was great.

The plot was a little shaky, up until near the end, when a huge twist is thrown in. I don't really want to give it away for those who haven't read the novel, but it's great. Right at that moment, the novel picked up, and I read it possibly faster than I had been reading it before.

Now, I'm also not a fan of the love triangle. I adore Peeta. I think he's great. (I do love how both Haymitch and Katniss know she doesn't deserve him; that was a great moment in the novel). The whole love angle with Gale just seems forced. I think the novel would be far stronger if Gale just remained a friend. We haven't gotten enough of their relationship together to feel like they would be a great couple. But, we get some great moments with Peeta and  Katniss, like when he sleeps with her to keep the nightmares away. That is so well written, and it works better than any moment between Gale and Katniss. I just think that with all the other love triangles in young adult books, this one didn't need it. That's one premise of the novels that just don't sit well with me.

The action in this one was good, too. Especially when they were watching the video of the year Haymitch was in the Games. That was great. We get an ax in the head, an empty's wonderfully gruesome.

So, all in all, the sequel was good. I wouldn't say it's as good as the first, but it's entertaining, and definitely a great read. I cannot wait to read Mockingjay, especially with the way Catching Fire ended. (Cliffhanger alert, guys.)

Overall rating: 9/10

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Graceling by: Kristin Cashore


Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.
When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change. She never expects to become Po’s friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

Let me start off by saying that I absolutely loved this novel. I thought it was well written, the voice and tone of the story was well developed, and the characters were awesome.

I loved the idea of people having certain Graces, and that if they're Graced they have two different eye-colors. I thought that was pretty cool. I also liked the fantasy setting Cashore set the novel in. The seven kingdoms and all. It worked well. Sometimes when people try to write fantasy it just doesn't turn out right, but I thought this brand of fantasy, for this novel, worked well.

Katsa was a strong main character. I liked her. I would've liked to have known a bit more about how she grew up, but all in all, she was a solidly developed character. She had flaws, which made her realistic. The reader can easily look past the fact that she can kill a man with her bare hands and relate to what she's going through. And I loved her Grace; I liked that it turned out to be a bit different than originally perceived in the beginning.

I also liked her relationship with Po. They had good chemistry and worked well on the page together. Their energies seemed to feed off each other. I think Cashore could've shown more interaction between them in the beginning, so their relationship didn't seem so rushed. Maybe that was just me. I kind of just wanted a bit more of a development between them.

Some of the secondary characters were great also. I loved  Bitterblue and Raffin. They were great. And the villain was cool, too. I'd like to know why he did what he did, because no explanation was given (for obvious reasons) and with no indication of his motive, he isn't really as developed as he could be. He's just "the bad guy" with no reason why he's the bad guy, except because he's needed for the plot.

So, I loved the novel. For a debut, it was great. The characters Cashore set up are awesome, and I'm hoping they make an appearance in Bitterblue, because I know they're not in Fire. The ending? Amazing. I loved how she ended it. It left me, as a reader, highly satisfied, and as a writer, I appreciated the route she took to end the novel. I thought it was well done. And, Graceling isn't just a novel for young adults. I think plenty of adults could appreciate and love the novel, especially because the main character is an adult herself.

And the cover is gorgeous. Not as pretty as Fire's cover, but still pretty in its own way.
Overall rating: 9.5/10

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Legion: A Film Review

Directed by: Scott Stewart
Starring: Paul Bettany, Lucas Black, Dennis Quaid, Tyrese Gibson

I had high hopes for this film. I really wanted to like it. It looked interesting enough, and I'm a sucker for an Apocalypse movie, especially when there's badass angels to go along with it. However, it wasn't a strong movie. The plot was shaky at best, and even though there were some pretty good actions scenes, they weren't enough to save the movie.

It was never brought up just why the child was so important to the fate of mankind, and what would happen if he were to die. And it was never brought up just why God was so angry. I mean, using that he was sick of the bullshit just doesn't seem like a good enough excuse.

The acting also seemed really forced. Some of the lines just came across as cheesy and didn't seem as natural as they could've been. The most natural actor was probably Paul Bettany. And some of the characters were by far developed, and some were pretty cliché, with no original twists to help give them a fresh outlook.

All in all, what looked to be a pretty good film ended up falling a little flat. The angels' wings were pretty damn cool, though.

Overall rating: 5/10

The Reader: A Film Review

Director: Stephen Daldry
Starring: Kate Winlet, Ralph Fiennes, David Kross

This is one of the times when I'll have seen the movie before reading the book it was based on. So, there will be no comparisons, just a straight shot review.

I really liked this movie. I thought it was shot beautifully, each scene flowing well into the next. It never seemed choppy and there were never any breaks that took away from the story. The scenery was great, too, the buildings and such all looking authentic for the time period.

The actors, I thought, were well cast. Kate Winslet did an amazing job as Hannah, and I liked David Kross. He did a good job with the character.

The premise of the story is what drew me in. The sordid love affair and the role of having to deal with consequences for one's actions. The relationship between Kross and Winslet was believable. It was realistic. I think the two actors worked well together; it worked. The vulnerability of Hannah was played extremely well by Winslet, and the naivety was played well by Kross (and Fiennes did a good job of playing an older Michael). I loved the scenes where he read to her. It was well done, and I really enjoyed them.

I also loved the court scenes. Not only did Winslet play the part convincingly, but whenever the camera would capture Kross, the viewer could see the pain in his face at what was happening, and the viewer could see what touch decisions he was tossing back and forth in his head.

There were some tiny plot holes, such as why Hannah's lawyer didn't know her secret, unless she never had to sign anything in front of him, which I find a bit unlikely. But, all in all, the film worked. It was realistic and believable.

The Reader is a movie I would watch again, though I'll probably try to read the novel first.

Overall rating: 8/10

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Letters To Juliet

Director: Gary Winick
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Vanessa Redgrave, Christopher Egan, and Gael García Bernal

I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for a good chick flick. But, it has to be a good chick flick. Not one of the countless movies out there that claim to be a feel good movie but just come off as overly sentimental and cliché. So, I was skeptical when it came to see Letters to Juliet. I didn’t know which one it would be, an actually good chick flick, or one of those overly sentimental ones.
In the end, I ended up liking it more than I thought. Most of the plot is something that we’ve seen before, but I loved the idea of Seyfried finding this letter about a lost love in Juliet’s wall in Verona. It was interesting, and in a sea of contrived plots, I thought it was pretty original. And I liked the journey that came next, of Claire, her grandson Charlie, and Sophie trying to find Claire’s lost love Lorenzo. It was cute. It had some great humor, and wonderful moments. By the middle of the movie, everyone knows how it’s going to end, but that’s okay, because it’s still entertaining. The characters are pretty well developed, I loved Redgrave’s character. She was hilarious. And I loved the interaction between Sophie and Charlie in the beginning, and I wish that quick wit between them had stayed constant throughout the whole film. I liked how their relationship developed (though it was sort of cliché) but I do wish they had kept that initial spark in there. Charlie kind of diminished from that cocky, funny character that he was in the beginning, and ended up quite like every other man in a romantic comedy.

I loved the scenery in the film. It made me want to jump on a plane to Italy immediately after the movie. It was beautiful.
So, all in all, it wasn’t a horrible film. It had some great lines, and the message was cute. It’s definitely something one could go see with a group or friends, a family member, or significant other. I’d recommend it to people just looking to have a good time and see a movie where you don’t have to think much, you just have to sit there and enjoy the character interactions and overall theme.
Overall rating: 7.5/10

I Am Legend by: Richard Matheson

Synopsis (for just the novella I Am Legend, not any of the other stories):

From out of the night come the living dead with a single purpose: to destroy Robert Neville, the last man on earth.

I watched the movie I Am Legend a while ago, and was excited to see the similarities and differences between the movie and novella. There were definitely more differences than similiarities. I really liked the novella, I think it had a cooler message in the end, and I liked how the main character wasn't really someone the reader could fully love or fully hate. It was easy to empathsize with him, but he wasn't a very likeable character. He had flaws. And I liked that. He wasn't a kind-hearted survivor like Will Smith was in the movie, he was rough around the edge. So, I think the novella was a stronger story. I liked how the vampires communicated. The creatures in the movie didn't really communicate like the ones in the novella did. And I liked the scientific explanation that was given in the novella. It was definitely an interesting take on vampirism.

So, while I loved the movie, I think I liked the novella a bit more.

The other stories in the collection were interesting. I wasn't fond of "Buried Talents" or "Dance of the Dead".

"Prey" was okay, as was "Witch War", although I would've liked more on "Witch War". I think Matheson could've gone farther with that story. It was interesting. I would've liked to have known more about the seven girls. The end of "Dress of White Silk" was creepy, and I liked how he wrote it in the perspective of a little kid. That was cool. I liked the premise of "Mad House, but hated the main character. I didn't feel bad for what happened at the end of the story at all.

"The Funeral" was cool, but it's another story I would've liked to read more about. "From Shadowed Places" was all right, interesting enough. "Person to person" was probably my favorite in the collection, after the novella. I loved the ending, it was pretty awesome.

All in all, the stories were entertaining, but it's not a collection that I'll be going back to anytime soon. For some, I would recommend checking it out from the library first. 

Overall rating: 6/10

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Rebecca by: Daphne Du Maurier

Synopsis:When the dashing Max de Winter finds a new wife while vacationing in Italy, he feels happy for the first time since Rebecca, his first wife, died. However, de Winter's grim housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, is obsessively devoted to the first Mrs. de Winter and won't let the newlyweds forget Rebecca. As the tension escalates, Mrs. Danvers grows more desperate — and more deadly.

I loved this novel. I should just get that out of the way. It was really good. It had a very Victorian feel to it, even though it was written in the late 30's.

I thought the characters were great. The main character (I really don't think we ever learn her name) gets a tad annoying in about the middle of the novel, because she is afraid of standing up for herself, but then she finally does, and it's a great moment. I know I was cheering for her. And Mrs. Danvers is a great creepy housekeeper that everyone would probably be a little scared of. Maxim wasn't really in the novel as much as I would've liked him to be. He was more prominent in the end of the novel. He was there in the scenes, but he was a stoic, kind of off-standish character. I liked seeing more emotion in him at the end of the book.

I loved Manderley. The descriptions were great, there were some great images I could see clearly. What's a suspense novel without a big house, after all?

It should be clear that this is an old novel, so there isn't a lot of action or drama. I mean, it's there, but it's mostly about the characters and setting up for whatever drama there is. Much of Du Maurier's writing reminded me of Agatha Christie's writing.

The one thing that sucked was that there were quite a bit of errors in my copy of the novel, so that broke the flow sometimes. I don't know if it's just my edition, or if it's all of them. An editor should definitely go through the novel and fix them, if that's the case. Hah.

But, I loved the book. It's great for a rainy day.

Overall rating: 8/10

(500) Days Of Summer

Director: Marc Webb
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel
Mark (Gordon-Levitt) is an aspiring architect who currently earns his living as a greeting card writer. Upon encountering his boss' beautiful new secretary, Summer (Deschanel), Mark discovers that the pair have plenty in common despite the fact that she's seemingly out of his league; for starters, they both love the Smiths, and they're both fans of surrealist artist Magritte. Before long Mark is smitten. All he can think about is Summer. Mark believes deeply in the concept of soul mates, and he's finally found his. Unfortunately for Mark, Summer sees true love as the stuff of fairy tales, and isn't looking for romance. Undaunted and undeterred by his breezy lover's casual stance on relationships, Mark summons all of his might and courage to pursue Summer and convince her that their love is real.

"This isn't a love story. This is a story about love."

I've wanted to see this film for a long time. Basically ever since it came out. I finally got around to renting it from Netflix and watching it last weekend.

Overall, it was a good movie. I liked the strong differences between Mark and Summer, and I liked how they changed throughout the film. At the end of the film, they weren't the same characters as they were in the beginning. Some of their scenes together were really cute and well done, like when they were in the bar, and when they were in the furniture store. I loved those scenes. I think they picked good actors for the lead roles, Joseph and Zooey did a great job in their parts.

I also loved the music in the film. It's definitely a great soundtrack!

I think that the sister should've been in more of the film, but that's just because I thought she was hilarious.

I thought the movie was well-shot, it flowed pretty well, and kept me interested until the end. There were some great lines and moments. I liked how the days were all out of order and you got day 500, then day 5, then day 45. It was cool.

This is definitely a movie I'd recommend to people who are more into character-driven movies and not plot driven movies.

I don't really have anything negative to say about the film. It wasn't absolutely amazing, but it wasn't horrible. It had a good message, good acting, some great moments, and was a great way to pass the time. I would definitely watch it again.

My rating: 7.5/10

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Picture of Dorian Gray by: Oscar Wilde


The Picture of Dorian Gray highlights the tension between the polished surface of high society and the life of secret vice. In this updated version of the Faust story, the tempter is Lord Henry Wotton who lives selfishly for amoral pleasure; Dorian's good angel or conscience is the portrait painter Basil Hallward whom Dorian murders. Although sin is punished in the end, the book has a strong flavor of the elegantly perverse. Wilde asserted in his Preface to the expanded edition: "There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all."

I loved this book. It's been sitting on my shelf for a while, waiting to be read, and I'm glad I finally got the chance to pick it up. Wilde's prose is beautiful, it flows wonderfully, painting clear pictures in the reader's mind. I could see everything vividly, as if I were in the story.

The plot was awesome, I loved the idea. And the dialogue is well written, especially the dialogue between Lord Henry and Dorian. There's a lot of philsophy in this novel, it's definitely a novel to make you think. But it's entertaining, too. There are some very funny moments. It's a novel that reflects Wilde's viewpoints of society at the time, much like most of his writings do.

The characters were great, too. I loved Dorian, he was so flawed it was easy to hate him, but you kind of loved him, too. Lord Henry was interesting, as was the Duchess. The moments between them were hilarious, I kind of wanted to see more between them. And Basil was interesting, too. I liked the way that the three main characters were distinctly the same, yet different at the same time. They played off one another well.

Along with the amazing descriptions, the dialogue was well written, too. There were a lot of great lines that make awesome quotes in this novel.

All in all, it was an amazing novel. Definitely one I would recommend to those who love British literature. Wilde was a great writer, one of my favorites. There were some parts that dragged a bit, but they were few and far between.

Overall rating: 9/10